While here at Sharjah International Book Fair I have been pondering the question of writers. Of course I love to talk about literature, culture, politics and publishing, but my central concern is with writers – how they work, how they connect in with the industry, and how their careers supported, developed and promoted by the publishing and cultural institutions around them.
While bestselling authors have often learnt from experience how to be comfortable and confident in the industry, writers who are just starting out or haven’t yet hit the big time often struggle to understand how and why things in the industry work, what their rights and responsibilities are, where to find support, how to find readers, and even how to value their work and keep on creating.
One of the things I am enjoying doing in Sharjah is connecting with writers, both local and from around the world.
I still haven’t gotten a firm handle on how emerging writers in the UAE learn how to write and navigate the business of writing. Of course there are some degrees, and some writing-focussed programs available, and reading and writing groups as well. Bookish events like Sharjah Book Fair and Emirates Literary Festival are obviously interesting to writers, but from what I’ve seen there is little in-depth, writer-specific programming available. There is not much indie publishing (as in micro-publishers) and the blogging community is small. I also don’t think there is a writers’ centre (correct me if I’m wrong!).
Earlier this year I wrote about Emerging writers globally. In Australia we are really lucky to have lots of entry points for writers to the publishing world: a thriving literary scene, lots of festivals, a robust publishing industry (including the oh-so-vital indie publishing sector), a solid reading and bookselling culture, and plenty of writing degrees available.
In short, Australia is unnaturally friendly to writers. While we sometimes come up against challenges (the parallel importation furore, the problem of selling books online, the death of newspapers etc), in general we are lucky to have such solid infrastructure for our writers to work within.
Of course, the Emerging Writers’ Festival is a part of that infrastructure. What we offer – our accessible and innovative ‘industry insider information’ programming – and what we produce – confident writers – is incredibly unique. I’m biased, of course, but I’m proud of the role EWF plays in developing and connecting writers in Australia.
This blog post is really a question (a long one!). I’d love to hear from writers in the UAE about where and how they navigate their writing careers and learn the art, the craft and the business of being a writer.